Telecommunications link to expand trauma services; Shock Trauma can confer with Cumberland doctors


Thanks to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the people of Allegany County will receive expanded services for trauma and heart cases.

By the end of the year, doctors at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center will see patients, speak with physicians and aid with diagnoses through a telecommunications link to Cumberland's Sacred Heart Hospital.

Cumberland physicians send many of their worst trauma cases by helicopter to Shock Trauma in Baltimore. With the new equipment, they will be able to confer with the more experienced team of doctors in Baltimore and make better decisions about when to move patients to Shock Trauma. Such decisions can be particularly important if moving patients could further imperil their health, as in the case of people with spinal injuries.

The new technology is funded by an $80,000 grant from Bell Atlantic and the Appalachian Regional Commission. A similar communications service between the UM Medical Center and St. Mary's Hospital in Leonardtown has been used for treatment of stroke patients.

"We are already designated as a trauma center, so this is a natural link," said Cathy Rogers, director of community relations for Western Maryland Health System.

In another development, by next summer, open heart surgery will be offered in Western Maryland by a cardiac surgeon recruited by university doctors.

For 10 years, the Cumberland hospitals have asked for state authorization that would allow them to provide open heart surgery services. Sacred Heart Hospital and Memorial Hospital and Medical Center of Cumberland each did not have enough patients to win approval from the state's Health Resources Planning Commission. After the two hospitals merged in April 1996, combined numbers convinced the commission that the county produced enough cases to sanction open heart surgery for Western Maryland.

"It's the only part of the state where there was not an open heart surgery program," said Pam Barclay, acting executive director of the commission. "Now they can take steps to bring the program on line."

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